The cry for corporate integrity is greater today than ever before. And Dignity for All shows us how to succeed with integrity, not just succeed. It is a compelling case study of a wonderful journey toward individual transition and corporate transition.
Founding Director of the Financial Times Knowledge Dialogue
and the Alliance for Strategic Leadership and author
of fourteen books, including The Leader of the Future
(a BusinessWeek best seller)
This is absolutely the most inspiring story about corporate leadership that I have read in the past 15 years! If you want to understand how to turn on employees and turn up profits, Jim Despain's real life journey from floor sweeper to Vice President of a $20 billion company is a must read. Every chapter is filled with important insights for transforming any business into a great company. So refreshing. Almost makes life worth living.
BYU, Marriott School of Business
and author of Powerful Leadership
Jim Despain pulls off this business memoir beautifully. It is a rare and honest look at what it was like for a low-level employee to struggle and overcome obstacles in a not-always-friendly corporate environment. Jim's climb up the ladder is inspiring. Start-up employees as well as executives should read this book carefully.
author of Jack Welch and the GE Way
When Jim Despain asked me to write a foreword for his book And Dignity for All, I was thrilled. Why? I'm a big Jim Depain fan.…You're going to love this book. What people want in leaders today, more than ever before, is integrity-walking their talk. And Dignity for All is all about integrity.…This might very well be the best management book you ever read. I know it will help you unleash the power and potential of your human organization. Thanks, Jim.
Co-author, The One Minute Manager
They say people can't change, but this book will convince you it's not true. I saw the Values Process described in this book change Jim and his team from autocratic managers to real leaders. And, I saw their business improve far beyond anyone's expectations. This book proves what we know in our hearts-that trusting and respecting people makes good business sense.
Group President, Caterpillar Inc.
"I highly recommend Jim Despain's book, And Dignity for All, to anyone who aspires to reach his or her dreams. It is an excellent story that clearly outlines how important it is to take risks, face your fears, and overcome any obstacles to reach success. This book allows readers to reflect on how they can transform their lives into something they never thought could be imaginable.
"Through my personal experience as a former high school teacher and as a leader in the United States Congress, I have learned to recognize the qualities of a great leader. While serving in these capacities, I have come to understand the truth behind the saying, 'leaders aren't born, they are made.' This message is conveyed throughout the book as Jim Despain tells a story about his transformational journey through life that helped him develop into a charismatic and effective leader. It is a story about how he worked his way up the ranks in a high profile company named Caterpillar, always with steady focus and with fierce determination that allowed him to overcome any challenge that came his way. Furthermore, it shows how Jim Despain inspired his workforce to put aside their differences and trust one another in order to pursue a more efficient, positive working environment.
"It was encouraging to read about Jim growing up in a small mining town in Illinois. He never received a college degree, but still managed to develop into one of the more respected, inspirational leaders and role models within the Caterpillar organization. This book reinforced my belief that each individual is responsible for the outcome of their own future-that success isn't always handed to a person on a silver platter, but rather earned through hard work and determination.
"I am thankful Jim Despain shared his personal story so that others might have the chance to understand what it takes to be a successful leader, and above all, how to make any career aspiration come true."
Speaker of the House
Ending the struggle between workers and bosses is the agenda of this frank but tendentious memoir-cum-manifesto by former Caterpillar vice-president Despain, who worked his way up from floor-sweeper to VP and general manager of the tractor division where he started. In his climb up the corporate ladder, Despain gained an intimate knowledge of the ongoing shop-floor strife between arrogant, abusive managers and recalcitrant, feather-bedding union workers. But in an overseas posting, he got a look at Japanese factories where harmony and mutual respect reigned, and he later triumphed by inspiring unskilled but eager Mexican workers with his quality-boosting "excellencia" system. Recalled to run Caterpillar's ailing Peoria complex, Despain instituted a new management "vision" emphasizing "people-based versus power-based principles" built on values like trust, teamwork and empowerment, which he credits with restoring profitability and morale after the bitter 1994 strike that ended with the union returning to work without a contract. Despain offers many valuable first-hand insights into workplace conflicts, and he is unusually forthright in placing unions, a topic that many management theorists side-step, at the center of his discussion of labor-management relations. But his treatment is one-sided; while he even-handedly condemns excesses on both sides of the labor-management divide, his tacit conclusion is that it is the union that must give way to management's high-minded human-relations initiatives. His call for labor-management solidarity is laudable, but some workers may see it as the velvet glove on the mailed fist. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
How A Company and a Man Changed Tracks James Despain began his career at Caterpillar as a broom sweeper on the factory floor. Forty-three years later, he retired from the company as an executive vice president who had transformed a deeply unprofitable division of the firm into one of its most important profit makers. With no college education but a deep-seated need to work hard and improve his company, he was able to make long-term, successful changes. More than a biography, however, ... And Dignity For All is the story of a manager's transformation from feared bully boss to a leader who understands the power of respect and positive support.
Despain learned early from a brutal coal-mining father that authority must be respected or the consequences would be painful. After high school and a stint in the Air National Guard, he went to work for Caterpillar, and took the hard lessons of blind obedience from his boyhood and military service with him.
After hard days on the shop floor, a stint in a management apprentice program, and a year layoff from the company, Despain returned to work for Caterpillar as a machine operator. When his amazing productivity and efficiency became the reason his supervisor would not let him leave the shop floor to move up the ranks of the company, he quit his job and went to work at a small tool and die shop where he became plant manager. After running into similar problems with managers there, he returned to Caterpillar as a salaried office employee. Within months he returned to the plant as a supervisor.
A Bully Boss As a foreman, Despain felt the power of his job. He became tougher, meaner and more aggressive when he dealt with complaints and accusations. His role as a bully boss was made apparent on an assembly line one day when the operator told him an overworked machine was beginning to smoke. In an effort to meet production demands and make his deadlines, Despain describes how he forced his employees to keep the machine running at any cost, despite the potential for a fire, injury or worse.
After taking a job for Caterpillar in Cleveland, Despain learned how divisions between employees and managers could create huge rifts that hampered productivity and progress. While in Japan on another assignment, Despain gained a new perspective on the importance of building a culture of performance and respect. After moving again, this time to Mexico, Despain learned how a devotion to quality must be forged with passionate belief.
Eight years later and back home in Peoria, Ill., he was made a vice president of North American plants for Caterpillar, and put in charge of the company's Track-Type Tractor Division. Before he arrived at this division, plant modernization, reengineering, reorganization, and total quality management were doing nothing to help the company turn a profit. The division was in the company's original plant, had a culture that was almost as old, and its employees - who had just returned to work after an eight-month strike - were unhappy. As competitors were making great headway in the industry, the division was facing tough times.
When Despain took a hard look at his own command-and-control management style, he realized that he was part of the division's problems as much as anything else. This is when he set out to change his own style of leadership to better fit his ideals, and change the company's culture as well. Taking his cue from role models in Japan and elsewhere who had offered him better ways to deal with people and management issues, Despain transformed himself and the division by establishing a set of nine core values - trust, mutual respect, teamwork, empowerment, risk taking, a sense of urgency, continuous improvement, commitment and customer satisfaction - to guide employee interactions.
'More Freedom to Make a Difference' Despain writes that these core values became "a blueprint for creating a work environment that drives success because they provide people a context for their decisions, broad boundaries for their ideas, and more freedom to make a difference." He explains that these values, and not large capital investments and forced "right-sizing," improved everything at the division, from profit to employee satisfaction.
Why Soundview Likes This Book ... And Dignity For All shines as a management book because it is the tale of a dynamic middle manager who experienced an epiphany late in his career and metamorphosed from a hard-nosed boss who made bad management decisions to a leader who learned the importance of trust and integrity. Despain was able to learn from his mistakes and gain a greater understanding of the value that a company can gain when employees are empowered and allowed to express themselves with support from managers who know how to unlock greatness and embrace positive change. Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Soundview Executive Book Summaries